Assemble

You know what this is about. Do I really need to say it?

I saw it last Wednesday with a bunch of close friends, and saw it once again this evening. It’s bigger than big. It’s a bunch of great actors. It’s an amazing director. It’s a compelling character study and a riveting plot.

That’s right. It’s Battleship.

Seriously, though, to put it in a nutshell The Avengers was, to use a coined phrase, totally fucking sweet. It was the fruit of a 4-year labour that started with Iron Man bursting the pimples of my acne-riddled high school self with its awesomeness back in 2008 and was most recently bolstered by the slight grit and war drama of Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s quite possibly the most anticipated movie event of 2012 besides The Dark Knight Rises and features a powerhouse cast directed by the indomitable Joss Whedon. It delivers on every aspect you’d want in a movie; there’s drama, comedy, tragedy, action sequences, character building and several “HOLY SHIT” moments on a level to rival Inception. It is the comic book movie, the definitive superhero visual that geeks like me have been waiting ages for and have finally been delivered.

HOWEVER…


I am left with something of a sinking feeling, in that it appears there isn’t anywhere substantial that I think the franchise can go from in this direction without faltering in the footsteps of this titanic super-offering. Granted, Joss Whedon can make almost anything amazing, but I wonder if he’s maybe left himself a monolith he can’t top.

As with any movie, Avengers isn’t perfect. There are areas where any good film can improve especially if it’s part of a franchise (despite what Uwe Boll might think) and the first Marvel team-up does have a couple of minor problem areas that leave themselves open to awesome augmentation in a sequel. The biggest one that springs to mind is Captain America; seeing it for the second time really showed me that Cap was denied something of a Whedon treatment in terms of his characterisation. Part of that, I believe, is because Joss’s humour largely depends on contemporary attitudes and references that Cap – having recently been defrosted from the ’40s – wouldn’t have yet. Tony Stark joking to Thor about “Shakespeare in the Park” (“Doth Mother know you are wearing her drapes?) and Black Widow lambasting her would-be captors at the start of the film take on a very snarky, Whedonesque quality that Cap just doesn’t have because he’s too old-fashioned. Not that it’s a bad thing necessarily but it did leave me feeling Cap was a little bit of an outsider in terms of the dialogue for most of the film, and by the end it seems he’s really started to acclimatize.

But the biggest problem I find is one of escalation; how do you go upwards from here with the epic proportions you’ve already given yourself?

The Avengers has set a new benchmark for superhero films and has turned itself into the yardstick by which all future team-up superhero movies – and comic book adaptations as a whole – will be judged. I worry if that benchmark may be insurmountable; sure, you’ve got big baddy Thanos as the next Avengers enemy for the sequel film, but what else can you add? Pitting the same team against him would feel like a rehash of their fight against Loki, and adding new characters could potentially overwhelm both the story and the viewers with too many people on screen all with A-grade personalities and struggles who battle against a titanic evil. Even if they did that, what’s to stop it from being just like the first movie but with more mooks getting mowed down by the minute?

And who would they add? Who can be attached to an already kick-ass team that can carry a movie by themselves?

Only a handful appear in my mind – with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man being possible contenders for their own solo films, especially since Edgar Wright put his hand up to direct the latter – but there’s not much they can add to the team that isn’t already there. Ms Marvel would be Black Widow with flight powers, Vision would be boring in his own movie, Scarlet Witch is too overpowered, Luke Cage would be a bit stereotypical…

It’s a bit of a pickle, y’see?

While it’s true the Avengers roster(s) is extensive, with literally hundreds of characters having the identifier as their own, there is a lot of variety for characters they can add but if they’re going for ones that are immediately recognisable by general members of the public rather than the obsessive, psychotic legion of fans the comic book currently has then it whittles the possibilities down majorly. They’ve got to be distinct, unique, and sympathetic, and I really wonder if it can ever work without diminishing the quality of the original.

The Avengers is one of the most amazing motion pictures I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will no doubt see it a few more times before its cinematic run ends. Joss Whedon has most definitely outdone himself with the movie – and I wonder if that’s going to be the problem in the end.

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